Public Opinion on Ethics, E-Verify and the #TxLege Agenda for Thursday, March 9

Public opinion for a couple of the many committee hearings taking place at the Texas Capitol on Thrusday, March 9.  

The House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, chaired by State Representative Sarah Davis, is scheduled to consider over a dozen bills on government ethics, including State Rep. Charlie Geren’s bills that would strip pensions from elected officials convicted of some felony convictions (HB 500), and change reporting and spending rules for lobbyists (HB 502).  Also up are State Representatives Giovanni Caprigione’s bills seeking to limit lobbying by members of the legislature and other elected officials (HB 503) and  to increase financial disclosure by candidates and officeholders (HB 501).  It would take too long to lay out even some of the shots across the bow and score-settling going on here. But we will note that the partisan shift in Washington, and probably the tone of the conflict, has caused some shifts in the salience of political corruption and leadership in the “most important problem” batteries in our polling over the last few months, though mostly in perceptions at the national level. At the state level, Republicans don’t seem to perceive problems, but Democrats are more activated (likely at least in part by the partisan changes in Washington D.C.). That said, almost all ethics reforms proposals, when you ask about them in a vacuum, tend to receive public support.  After the most important problem results below (which include choices for "political corruption/leadership"), find a reasonably representative sample of an ethics question.

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Border security6%11%27%
Political corruption/leadership14%11%2%
Declining oil prices3%11%9%
The economy4%11%4%

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Border security3%9%27%
Political corruption/leadership21%10%1%
Health care8%2%4%

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Such a law is appropriate because it allows people to judge potential conflicts of interest65%48%52%
Such a law is an invasion of privacy that goes too far17%28%28%
Haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion18%24%20%

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will hear a variety of bills on different topics when they convene today, though a highlight is sure to be Senator Charles Schwertner's SB 23, which would require contractors doing business with the state to use the E-verify system of confirming the citizenship status of employees.  The MIP figures above illustrate the salience of immigration and border security among Republican voters, amidst well-rehearsed attitudes favoring more stricter enforcement of immigration laws.  We included an item on putting the responsibility for checking immigration status on employers in October 2013, and it received support from majorities of Democrats and Republicans. In a battery of questions on immigration questions in that poll, the e-verify item was received the broadest support among Texans.

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Strongly support62%
Somewhat support21%
Somewhat oppose6%
Strongly oppose7%
Don't know4%

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categoryNo high schoolHigh school graduateSome college2-year4-yearPost-grad
Strongly support60%63%62%75%55%66%
Somewhat support15%22%20%19%26%22%
Somewhat oppose5%4%9%2%9%4%
Strongly oppose7%9%6%3%7%5%
Don't know12%3%4%1%3%1%

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Strongly agree8%33%34%
Somewhat agree13%20%36%
Somewhat disagree19%22%17%
Strongly disagree54%16%6%
Don't know/No opinion6%9%7%